I’ve collected a lot of wisdom over the decades spent in executive leadership for non-profits and now near a decade in placing high-level talent for executive positions in non-profits. One of the best pieces of advice I ever received included four key ideas but with one main idea.




Great people follow leaders that know how to listen and be present

It is easy to get busy, overwhelmed or stressed with all that non-profit leaders have on their plate. However, when you are having a conversation with an employee you must be 100% locked in to what they are saying. This will build credit with your team as you are viewed as an authentic leader, but it will also allow you to think more deeply and critically about the impact of leadership decisions, strategy, and delegation. You can’t get all the work done by yourself, so you must show the people that are getting the work done for you great respect.


Get rid of the Energy Vampires

We all know how uncomfortable it is in a meeting when you need to hold someone accountable but you know that person will likely give several excuses and potentially even blame a teammate. We also all know what it is like to introduce a new concept to a team with enthusiasm only to be greeted with a bunch of hot air as to why it will be hard and how it could fail. If you have truly invested in your people by listening and training, you should feel confident in asking these negative people to leave. As Jon Gordon puts it in his book The Energy Bus, “No Energy Vampires Allowed!” Teams should think of challenges and new concepts as great opportunities and go after them with enthusiasm. If a particular person is always draining the energy from your team, get rid of them. Their empty seat on the bus could be a great opportunity to bring on a rising star for your organization, and The Batten Group can help.


Get Organized and Set the Stage

This may be counter intuitive, but the leader’s job is to set the stage for everyone else to be operating at their highest potential. This means you must be organized and respond to the needs of your team within 24 hours at all times. In addition to this, you should apply the 48-hour rule to all your external constituents for email and phone calls. Create a vision for the year that your team knows and could repeat back to you. Then create major initiatives for which team has clear due dates. Then check the pulse of your team with weekly meetings in which you are the most prepared one in the room. Your attention to detail and organization skills will demonstrate that you respect others time and that you want them to shine.


Leadership is Not About Being in Charge, It Is About Taking Care of Those in Your Charge

I’ll admit it was nice to be the top executive at my non-profit, I wanted that title of Executive Director and CEO. I quickly learned that leadership involved a great deal of serving. I needed to serve my team members through caring about their career and giving them assignments that matched their unique ability and their vision for their career. I needed to serve my community by understanding the context in which I operate my non-profit. I needed to serve the Board of Directors because their time and their network were invaluable resources to my success. This took the pressure off of always giving instruction. Servant leadership creates loyalty, trust, and extra effort.


All of these things pointed back to the single most important thing: GREAT PEOPLE MAKE ALL THE DIFFERENCE!